Contentious Politics and Participatory Democracy in Brazil


Contentious politics helps individuals and groups with limited political voice to place their ideas and interests on the political agenda. Contentious politics were long thought to occur when politically marginalized group had no other means to advance their political agenda. The June 2013 social mobilization in Brazil caught most political observers by surprise, especially given the creation of a large, wide-spread participatory architecture (national conferences, councils, participatory budgeting). The innovative institutions emerging in Brazil created a policy environment in which millions of citizens have regular access to state policymaking bodies. How does the institutionalization of a broader network of participatory institutions make it easier for citizens to engage in contentious politics? In what ways does this institutionalization make it more difficult for some citizens to engage in contentious politics? In what ways has the vast network of participatory institutions been largely irrelevant to how citizens use contentious politics? This article explore how the institutionalization of an extensive participatory democracy system in Brazil alters the incentive structures that encourage citizens to engage in contentious collective action.